For a second time, it appears the HIV virus, which is a precursor to AIDS, has been knocked out by drug therapy for a baby only hours old. Last year scientists released the news to the world that a baby born with HIV was cured. The baby, only 30 hours, or a day old, was given drug treatment. There was much shock and wonderment at this revelation.
Yesterday, again it was revealed another baby was treated and is now free of HIV. This exciting news was released at an AIDS conference and a researcher believes that Canada and South Africa may have more, for a total of eight, that are indeed HIV free. Researchers add that a clinical trial is set to begin for 60 babies born with HIV and that they will be put on medication prior to 48 hours or two days old.
250,000 babies worldwide are born with HIV. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director at the National Institutes for Allergy and Infectious Diseases says, “It is a huge proof of concept that you can cure someone, if you can treat them early enough.” He believes this could offer major changes in treatment.
Other announcements came this week about the virus HIV, long-lasting drugs for AIDS prevented infections on test monkeys, and other scientists and researchers reported investigations into genes could bring immune cell response to ward off or ‘repel’ the deadly virus.
The “Mississippi baby” who was the first baby to be described as free from the virus a year ago is still free from HIV and is at least three years old. The second baby is nine months old and a girl. The girl’s mother has AIDS and a mental illness. She did not take the drugs, which were prescribed to her to prevent her baby from contracting the virus. Dr. Deborah Persaud is the virologist in charge of performing tests on both these cases at John Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore.
A Pediatrician, Dr. Audra Deveikis started high doses of AZT, 3TC and Neirapine on the baby, after blood was drawn at four hours confirmed the virus. It is a fine line that doctors must weigh on, toxicity of meds versus uncontrolled HIV and AIDS in the newborn. “Early treatment is critical,” said Dr. Deveikis. She had seen the video of the first baby and made decisions for this child, who is now in foster care. The mother remains alive.
The girl baby, nine months old, had DNA and RNA samples, which showed the virus in blood and spinal fluid. About a week after birth, the HIV started to disappear from lab tests from the baby and by two weeks, was not present at all. They will continue these drugs for two years and watch her. Doctors of Obstetrics and Pediatricians in Brazil, South Africa and the United States will be put on alert, to watch for babies born to mother’s who do not take drugs for prevention of HIV transmission. The United States has less than 200 babies born per year with HIV.
DR. Bryson will lead this trial, which is seeking 60 babies and will be funded by Dr. Fauci’s Institute.
It was almost accidental in the Mississippi baby, as the mother was unaware of her HIV infection, and received no prenatal care. At 18 months, the mom stopped the drugs and appointments for her baby. When she did come five months later, doctors thought the worst, that probably she would be infected. But she was not.
Dr. Steven G. Deeks, an expert in AIDS from the University of California at San Francisco, says the baby girl from Long Beach California gives the medical community more evidence of starting the drug therapy early on from birth. “But it sure would be nice to have a way to decide when to stop.”
In addition to this great news, that the HIV virus has been knocked out from the two babies, is that scientists now have gene therapy that will resist HIV infection. A small study was performed and in the future the hope is from this, that people infected with the HIV virus will not have to take drugs. They call this modification “gene editing.”
The mutation which is found naturally in one percent of Caucasians and is known to perform resistance to HIV. So researchers modified the T-cells in 12 individuals to mimic this mutation and gave them back their own cells. Once the modified T-cells went away, the infection came back, but the purpose of this clinical trial was to evaluate safety of infusion.
Even though the virus returned, after modified T-cells went away, as it can hide in body reservoirs, the news is exciting. This in addition to the baby news for the second time has made for a good week in the future treatment of people with HIV.
By Kim Troike